Infirmary Blues

Massachusetts residents like to think they’re smarter than residents of other states, but I have to say, there might be something to that—how else would the Commonwealth continue to function, given the frequent you-cannot-be-serious antics of our elected officials? Here’s a new one, as reported by the Boston Globe:

[S]tate lawmakers… last week debated a bill that would require all schools to sterilize musical wind instruments, like clarinets, flutes, and piccolos, before they are passed from one student to another.

The bill’s sponsor, state Representative Paul J. Donato, who represents Medford and parts of Malden, said he believes the same sterilization standards should apply to band instruments as those applied to medical instruments.

You never know when you might have to perform an emergency tracheotomy with that trombone mouthpiece, I guess. Now, given that high-school band instruments have been around since roughly the time of the ancient Sumerians (“I don’t care who your father is, Ur-Nungal, I will bump you to fifth clarinet if you don’t sit up”) without any evidence of major bocal-induced pandemics, one might ask why Rep. Donato is suddenly concerned about this now. Well, the invaluable Universal Hub asked, too, and found the obvious answer: one of Donato’s campaign contributors is a dentist who just happens to have invented an expensive system for sterilizing band instruments. (Seventy-six trombones would run you between nine and fifteen grand.) I know, I know—what are the chances? In fact, I’m sure the good doctor took it upon himself to give Donato money not to further his own interests, but because he recognized Donato’s already-present-but-inchoate concern over the same insidious sousaphones.

Is there a chance that the average band nerd could be infected with grave germs from a mouthpiece? Sure, and I’d guess it’s around the same probability as developing a fatal embolism after dropping a baritone sax on your toe. (In my own time, I could have said that it was roughly the same chance as this band nerd catching an STD.) In other words, doesn’t the legislature have better and less transparently mendacious things to worry about these days? I say if Rep. Donato keeps it up, just lock him in a beginning band rehearsal for six hours or so. Between the germs and the intonation, he’ll crack.

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